Dick Pound says Stepanova treated 'very poorly'

Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova and her husband, who fled their country after uncovering a state-backed doping scandal, were treated poorly by all sports bodies, said International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound.

Yuliya Stepanova is now living in an undisclosed location in the United States.   -  AP

Russian whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova and her husband, who fled their country after uncovering a state-backed doping scandal, were treated poorly by all sports bodies, said International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound.

Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) who helped draft the first of several reports into Russian doping last year, said her treatment and exclusion from the Olympics was scaring off other people who may be ready to talk.

“I think collectively we have treated Stepanova very poorly and I think that would have a tendency to put a wet blanket over any other whistleblowers, who'll say, 'look what happened to them. Why am I going to expose myself to all this danger?", Pound told Reuters in an interview.

“So we have to get a better system of whistleblowing, so the information can be provided anonymously and cannot be traced back to a particular whistleblower,” said Pound, who is not a member of the IOC's powerful executive board.

Stepanova, now living in an undisclosed location in the United States, was the key whistleblower in the scandal that led to virtually the entire Russian track and field team being banned from the Rio Olympics.

> Stepanova: 'No accident if something happens to me'

The middle-distance runner, a former drugs cheat herself, had been praised by the world athletics federation (IAAF) for her courage and cleared to compete as a neutral athlete in Rio by the federation. The IOC, however, refused to admit her, citing her doping past and only extended an invitation for her to come to the Games as a guest.

WADA HACK

Days ago, unknown hackers accessed her details and address in the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) system, forcing her to move. “You've got somebody breaking into the WADA system to try to find out where the Stepanovs are. That's pretty heavy stuff," said Pound, one of the longest-serving IOC members after joining in 1978.

> Read: Stepanova barred from Rio

He said the overall handling by the IOC of the Russian doping affair was far from perfect.

“I think we have fumbled the ball in the first place. My view on this is that when you have uncovered... incontrovertible evidence of a state-operated system for cheating at the Olympics, that means, 'I'm sorry, you're not welcome here and so I think Russia should have been excluded.”

WADA and several other national anti-doping bodies had called for a blanket ban of Russians in Rio but the IOC opted to allow more than 270 of the country's athletes to compete after they were cleared by the international federations governing their sports.

“I think the size and political weight of Russia played some factor in this. If it had been Guatemala, you know what the decision would have been and you know how quickly it would have been taken,” said Pound, who endorsed the IOC's decision before the Games to give international federations governing sports the right to decide which Russian athletes were eligible to compete.

He also accused his own organisation of having failed to live up to its moral role.

“I think they (IOC) botched it both conceptually and in sort of failing to exercise the moral authority that the IOC should have,” he said.

“These are not technical decisions, you know, it's not whether somebody has qualified or not. This is 'Does this country deserve to be part of the Olympic Games?"

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